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US Announces Sanctions Against Putin’s Two Adult Daughters

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The US has announced sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s two adult daughters, Mariya Putina and Katerina Tikhonova.

The latest move is partly in response to scenes in the Ukrainian town of Bucha, near Kyiv, where more than 300 bodies have been discovered, including some civilians with their hands tied behind their backs.

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(L-R) Katerina Tikhonova, Vladimir Putin, Putin’s ex-wife Lyudmila Putina, and Mariya Putina, in Primorsky Krai in 2002. Pic: kremlin.ru

Sanctions will also target prime minister Mikhail Mishustin, the wife and children of foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, and members of Russia’s security council including Dmitry Medvedev, an ex-president and PM.

The US believes many of the Russian leader’s assets are hidden by family members.

The penalties will cut off all of Mr Putin’s close family members from the US financial system and freeze any assets they hold in America.

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The US is also toughening penalties against Russian banks in retaliation for alleged war crimes in Ukraine.

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President Joe Biden, who is signing an executive order banning new US investment in Russia, called the latest round of sanctions “devastating”.

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“I made clear that Russia would pay a severe and immediate price for its atrocities in Bucha,” Mr Biden tweeted.

In a statement, the White House said: “The United States, with the G7 and the European Union, will continue to impose severe and immediate economic costs on the Putin regime for its atrocities in Ukraine, including in Bucha.

“We will document and share information on these atrocities and use all appropriate mechanisms to hold accountable those responsible.

“As one part of this effort, the United States is announcing devastating economic measures to ban new investment in Russia, and impose the most severe financial sanctions on Russia’s largest bank and several of its most critical state-owned enterprises and on Russian government officials and their family members.”

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Map of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

The White House said that if Mr Putin were to change course in Ukraine, US sanctions could potentially slow and possibly reverse.

The latest US action will freeze any of Sberbank’s and Alfa Bank’s assets touching the US financial system and prohibit anyone from America from doing business with them.

The sweeping financial sanctions follow the West’s earlier action this week to cut off Russia’s frozen funds in the US to make debt payments.

Sberbank holds nearly one-third of the overall Russian banking sector’s assets and is systemically critical to the Russian economy.

Alfa Bank is Russia’s largest privately-owned financial institution and Russia’s fourth-largest financial institution overall.

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Worst allegations of war crimes in Bucha

UK announces new sanctions against Russia

The UK has also announced a significant ratcheting up of its sanctions on Russia.

Britain’s fifth wave of measures include asset freezes against major banks, a ban on British investment in Russia and a pledge to end dependency on Russian coal and oil by the end of the year.

Announcing the package, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said: “Today, we are stepping up our campaign to bring Putin’s appalling war to an end with some of our toughest sanctions yet.

“Our latest wave of measures will bring an end to the UK’s imports of Russian energy and sanction yet more individuals and businesses, decimating Putin’s war machine.

“Together with our allies, we are showing the Russian elite that they cannot wash their hands of the atrocities committed on Putin’s orders. We will not rest until Ukraine prevails.”

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Key sanctions announced today include:

Asset freezes against Sberbank and Credit Bank of Moscow;An outright ban on all new outward investment to Russia. In 2020, UK investment in Russia was worth over GBP11bn;By the end of 2022, the UK will end all dependency on Russian coal and oil, and end imports of gas as soon as possible thereafter. From next week, the export of key oil refining equipment and catalysts will also be banned, degrading Russia’s ability to produce and export oil – targeting not only the industry’s finances but its capabilities as a whole;Action against key Russian strategic industries and state-owned enterprises – including a ban on imports of iron and steel products, a key source of revenue. Russia’s military ambitions are also being thwarted by new restrictions on its ability to acquire the UK’s world-renowned quantum and advanced material technologies.

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Sky’s Mark Austin will interview Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov

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WHO Estimates 15m People Have Died Directly or Indirectly From COVID – More Than Double Official Death Toll

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The World Health Organisation estimates that 15 million people worldwide have now died of coronavirus – or as a result of its impact on health services.

WHO data shows the number of excess COVID mortalities to be somewhere between 13.3 million and 16.6 million people from 1 January 2020 to 31 December 2021. This is more than double the official death toll of around six million.

Excess mortality refers to the number of people who have died of the virus either directly or indirectly by being unable to access health services for other conditions.

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The figures were compiled using country-reported data and statistical modelling, the WHO said.

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There were 14.9 million excess deaths associated with COVID-19 by the end of 2021, the UN body said on Thursday.

Most excess COVID deaths (86%) happened in Asia, Europe and the Americas, according to the figures.

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Middle-income countries accounted for 81% of deaths, with 28% occurring in upper-middle-income countries and 4% in low-income ones.

Some 68% of all excess deaths worldwide happened in just 10 countries.

There was a higher rate for men (57%) than there was for women (43%), with more excess deaths among the elderly than younger generations.

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WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus commented: “These sobering data not only point to the impact of the pandemic but also to the need for all countries to invest in more resilient health systems that can sustain essential health services during crises, including stronger health information systems.

“WHO is committed to working with all countries to strengthen their health information systems to generate better data for better decisions and better outcomes.”

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Original Source: news.sky.com

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Pope Francis Seen Using Wheelchair for the First Time for Mobility Reasons

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The Pope has been pictured using a wheelchair – the first time he’s used one in public due to the knee pain that’s made it hard for him to walk and stand.

Francis, 85, was wheeled on stage and helped into a seat during an audience with a group of nuns and religious superiors from around the world at the Vatican.

He appears to be having a flare-up of sciatica, a nerve condition he suffers with that he’s called his “troublesome guest”.

The Pope has had to cancel or cut short activities several times in the last month because of pain in his right knee.

He was pictured in a wheelchair last July after major intestinal surgery, but this is believed to be the first time he’s used one in public due to his mobility problems.

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Before Thursday’s event, he was able to walk the roughly 10 metres or so from the side entrance of the stage to his seat with some help.

He recently received some injections to try to relieve the pain but has continued to struggle.

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His impaired movement was apparent over Easter when he attended but did not take charge of masses at St Peter’s Basilica, instead delegating a cardinal or archbishop to preside.

During a trip to Malta in April he was also pictured using an elevator platform to get on and off the plane.

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Original Article: news.sky.com

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Woman Pulled Alive From Rubble Six Days After Building Collapsed

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A woman has been found alive in the rubble of a building that partially collapsed almost six days earlier, Chinese state media has said.

At least five people are confirmed to have died and possibly dozens are still missing following the disaster in the city of Changsha, in central China‘s Hunan Province, on 29 April.

The unidentified woman has become the 10th survivor and was rescued shortly after midnight today, about 132 hours after the rear of the six-storey building suddenly caved in, the official Xinhua News Agency has reported.

The woman was conscious and told rescuers how to pull her out without causing further injury, Xinhua added.

Teams had used dogs and hand tools as well as drones and electronic life detectors in the search.

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All the survivors were reportedly in good condition after being treated in a hospital and it is thought intermittent rain showers over the last few days may have helped their chances of survival without food or water.

At least nine people have been arrested in relation to the collapse of what Xinhua has described as a “self-built building”.

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This includes its owner, on suspicion of ignoring building codes or committing other violations.

Three people in charge of design and construction were also held, along with five others who allegedly gave a false safety assessment for a guest house on the building’s fourth to sixth floors.

The building also housed residences, a cafe and shops.

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An aerial photo shows the site of the collapsed residential building in Changsha, central China’s Hunan Province

There has been increase in the number of collapses of self-built buildings in recent years.

Last month, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for additional checks to uncover structural weaknesses.

Following the building collapse at the weekend, he urged for more victims to be found in the rubble “at all costs”.

Poor adherence to safety standards, including the illegal addition of extra floors and failure to use reinforcing iron bars, is often blamed for similar disasters.

China also suffers from decaying infrastructure such as gas pipes that has led to explosions and collapses.

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Source: news.sky.com

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